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Latest Budget Council Meeting angers VSU biology professor

The Budget Council met in the Cypress Room at the University Center on Oct. 21.

The meeting was led by Dr. Robert Smith, the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, and Traycee Martin, vice president of Finance and Administration.

They discussed the financial expectancies of the fall and spring semesters, leaving some professors and department heads with a limited amount of hope for what they will be able to accomplish with the little money that they will have to work with.

VSU, among other universities, has had a decline in traditional enrollment numbers since the pandemic, which has caused a fold in the university’s budget.

“Debt has really been something that has challenged Valdosta State for some time,” said Dr. Smith.

As a result of the decreasing budget, various cuts have been made in order to distribute the money in the places where it is most needed. However, these cuts have affected the professors’ ability to carry out instruction.

After the 30-minute meeting presentation was adjourned, a Q&A session took place, which lasted about an hour.

The first concern that was brought forward by a biology professor Dr. J. Mitchell Lockhart. Lockhart said that professors who were teaching face-to-face courses were being forced to work out of a budget that was already pretty tight.

“I want to know how you expect departments to function with 50% of operating budgets that are already pretty slim to begin with,” Dr. Lockhart said as he began crossing his arms. “I don’t know how you expect them to operate. Those cuts that are being made are negatively affecting instruction.”

Dr. Smith could not help but sympathize with the passionate worries that Dr. Lockhart quickly expressed.

“Nobody wants to cut budgets,” Dr. Smith said. “But we only have a few arrows in our quiver. We either reduce operating, we reduce travel… or we reduce people, and none of them are especially welcomed choices.”

This response left Dr. Lockhart with little to no reassurance as to how he was supposed to continue his job without the standard financial support of the university.

“That is why we are having the conversations about fundamental change that we are having now,” said Dr. Richard Carvajal, VSU President, as he reassured Lockhart that he sympathized with his concern. “It will take us a little while to do that. And for the next year or so in our budget, our only real options are to make ends meet, and that’s going to make us live with far less funds than we will realistically probably should have to support our programs.”

VSU’s faculty continues to seek solutions to the increasing drop in enrollment by pushing the online college experience in order to appeal to students who are also devoting their time in the workforce, according to Rodney Carr, the soon-to-be retired vice president for Student Success.

Even though this shift is happening across the country, what will this mean for the future of in-person classes and for the professors that teach those courses? Also, what does that mean for the future of the traditional college experiences?

“Maybe it’s time we protect the academy,” Dr. Lockhart said before quickly exiting the meeting.

Written by Samiriya Hamilton, News Editor. 

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